by Félix Pérez
A day that has been decades in the making — that has eluded generations of DREAMer students, their families and aspiring citizens — has finally arrived. The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate today that would modernize the nation’s immigration system.
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The legislation comes less than a week after a historic rally in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol that drew educators, students, families, religious leaders, community groups and elected officials from across the nation.
DREAMers, children and young adults who were brought to this country at a young age and have been raised and educated in the United States, are singled out in the bill for an expedited and practical path to citizenship.
Arizona math teacher Dennis Van Roekel called the bill “a step in the right direction.” Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, added:
The proposal rightly reflects our moral values and robust tradition as a nation of immigrants . We commend the senators for making the centerpiece of the bill a clear and inclusive roadmap for aspiring Americans to become citizens. We also appreciate their commitment to keep families together and to expedite the process for citizenship for DREAMers. We agree that efficient, fair, and effective avenues for legal, family-based immigration are vital to keeping America strong.
Immigration reform supporters cautioned that the filing of the bill is the beginning of what will likely be a months-long legislative process. These supporters said the same energy and activism from DREAMers, educators and immigrant supporters that resulted in the Gang of Eight’s legislation will have to continue to carry the bill to passage.
Caution notwithstanding, educators such as Kari Johnson, of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, are savoring the significant step forward on behalf of their students. “As an educator, my dream for my students is to achieve their dreams and be successful in whatever they choose to do,” said Johnson, who attended last week’s immigration rally and met with members of Congress. “No matter if a child was born here in the United States or in a different country, they’re still our children . . . I just want them to know that I am on their side, and I want to help them in whatever way I can.”